Developing eco-innovations: a three-stage typology of supply networks

Paul Cousins, Samuel Roscoe (Collaborator), Richard Lamming (Collaborator)

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This paper uses grounded theory to develop and deepen our understanding of eco-innovation. It pre- sents, through a series of four propositions, a three-stage supply network typology to help scholars and managers consider how best to develop these innovations. This typology was constructed by reviewing existing sustainability frameworks that argued that innovation was a key factor in sustainability. Moreover we found little consideration given on how to discover and develop eco-innovations. The literature proposes that a firm with strong ties with a few strategic suppliers will benefit from the knowledge and technology that spills over from suppliers to the firm during the new product devel- opment process. In contrast, the network literature explains that the creation of multiple weak ties to non-strategic suppliers may increase opportunities for identifying innovation. The network literature further suggests a third and potentially more promising route: building weak ties to suppliers that bridge ‘structural holes’ in the network. We suggest that strong ties with strategic suppliers will lead to the development of incremental eco-innovations while weak ties with multiple suppliers and with suppliers that bridge structural holes will tend to lead to radical eco-innovations. Finally, we suggest that once eco- innovations are developed they should be embedded in the operational processes of other suppliers to increase the sustainability performance of the focal firm.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1948-1959
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • eco-innovation, sustainability, green supply management, supply chain strategy.


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